Ain’t Too Proud!
- By Ken Werther
- Photos Courtesy of CTG
I was only nine years old when it all began. “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and “My Girl” (1964), “Get Ready” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” (1966), “I Wish it Would Rain” ((1967), “Cloud Nine” (1968), “I Can’t Get Next To You” (1969), “Psychedelic Shack” and “Ball of Confusion” (1970), “Just My Imagination” (1971), and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1972). If you are a fan of the Motown era (like me!) these titles bring to mind only one name: The Temptations! Known for their choreography, distinct harmonies, and flashy wardrobe, the Temptations sold tens of millions of albums and rank among the most successful groups in popular music. An amazing fact that I’m guessing is largely unknown — from their start in 1960 (first known as The Elgins) up through today, there have been 24 different Temptations! Over the course of their legendary career the Temptations released 42 Top 10 hits, four Billboard Hot 100 number one singles, and 14 R&B number one singles. They were the first Motown act to win a Grammy Award (1969) and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. They received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
There is little else in American pop music history that rivals the success of Motown Records and all of its artists. The roster was extraordinary — The Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, The Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Mary Wells, Kim Weston, Barrett Strong, Edwin Starr, The Originals, The Spinners, Boys II Men, 98 Degrees, Rick James, Eddie Kendricks, Rare Earth, Billy Preston … the list goes on and on. Dreamgirls, a smash hit musical that opened on Broadway in 1981, looked and sounded an awful lot like the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes, although its creators insisted that it was not. In the spring of 2013, Motown: The Musical opened on Broadway and ran for almost two years.
Ain’t Too Proud, an electrifying new musical about the life and times of The Temptations, is set to arrive in Los Angeles this month at the Ahmanson Theatre. The show tells the story of five young guys on the streets of Detroit and how they were discovered by Berry Gordy, who signed them to his now legendary new record label. After 24 attempts, they finally had a hit and the rest is history — how they met, how they rose, the groundbreaking heights they hit, and how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the nation fell into civil unrest. It is a thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal. Ain’t Too Proud began its life in the fall of 2017 at Berkeley Rep and became the highest grossing show in the theatre’s 50-year history. Critics were delirious with praise. “Throbs with grit and groove. Now more than ever, the magnitude of what the band accomplished, crossing over into the mainstream, and what they sacrificed to get there, resonates. There’s nothing like the irresistible beat of The Temptations,” said the San Jose Mercury News. “Not just your imagination: Ain’t Too Proud rocks! Richly textured, perfectly blended harmonies back lead vocals that somehow combine swaggering showmanship, meticulously honed technique, and emotion of almost unbearable intensity,” exclaimed the San Francisco Chronicle. When the production moved to Washington, DC, earlier this year, The Washington Post said, “The slick and consistently entertaining Ain’t Too Proud is surely ready for Broadway!”
The production boasts quite a showbiz pedigree. The book is by Kennedy Prize-winner Dominique Morisseau and is directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff (The Who’s Tommy, Jersey Boys, Summer–The Donna Summer Musical), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys). The creative team includes Tony Award nominee Robert Brill (scenic design), Tony Award-winner Paul Tazewell (costume design), Tony Award-winner Howell Binkley (lighting design), Tony Award-winner Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Drama Desk Award-winner Peter Nigrini (projection design), Edgar Godineaux (associate choreographer), Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig design), and Steve Rankin (fight direction). Let’s do this, Los Angeles!
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